Our pancreas is responsible for essential body functions related to our digestive and endocrine systems. A long, tapered organ, it secretes enzymes that aid our duodenum (the first part of our small intestine) break down carbohydrates, fats, acids, and proteins. It also secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon, which work together to monitor the amount of glucose in our blood.
Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasm (IPMN) is one of several actionable conditions that could befall our pancreas. It causes pancreatic inflammation, or pancreatitis; when this occurs, the cells that line our pancreatic duct (the area responsible for shuttling digestive enzymes to the duodenum) become premalignant. In other words, there is a chance these cells could spiral into pancreatic cancer, a notoriously brutal type of cancer. When you have IPMN, these premalignant cells lining the pancreatic duct produce mucus, blocking the pancreatic duct. The cells involved in IPMN appear like long strands. Though they’re technically benign, scientific evidence has suggested that they often become invasive and malignant (cancerous). However, IPMN on its own has a relatively low mortality rate.
IPMN is often asymptomatic and is frequently found during imaging studies performed for alternative purposes. When it does produce symptoms, however, they’re often similar to bile duct disorders because the majority of the latter prevent the bile ducts from releasing digestive enzymes or bile into the duodenum.
The most common symptoms associated with IPMN include:
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Stool that is light in color
- Night sweats
- Pancreatitis (inflammation)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Yellow eyes or skin (caused by the buildup of the waste product known as bilirubin)
- Abdominal pain concentrated to the right side of the body (this is where the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas are found)
There are several ways IPMN could be diagnosed, including via a CT scan, MRI, and a minimally invasive biopsy procedure called EU-FNA, and another minimally invasive procedure used to visualize tissue called an endoscopic ultrasound.
The Ezra torso and full-body scans screen your pancreas for precancerous and cancerous conditions, including IPMN. If you’re interested in learning more about our screening plans and payment options, you may do so at the following link.